Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Summerisle Blues

I recently bought Black Rat Swing, a CD of Jo Ann Kelly's music.

I've known of Jo Ann Kelly since the time I first began to buy music -she's on that album "Immediate Anthology Best of British Blues Volume II" or whatever variation of that title it has in your country/era - you know, the one with the Clapton/Page tracks that are called dumb English blues names like Draggin' My Arse and Gonna Buy Me a Bulldog or something...that were just jams but Page turned them over to the record company anyway and attracted Clapton's long lived venom**.

Er... well, back to the subject: Jo Ann Kelly is on there with a couple of stand-out stormers, and for a long while I'd vaguely wondered if she was the reincarnation of Memphis Minnie, or whether she'd just managed two and then faded into obscurity. Turned out she managed about 20, before the usual thing that happens to purists happened to her (i.e. obscurity by another pathway).

She was a small, white, blond, mousy-looking person but she sure managed to not sound like it. The sleeve notes confirm that she sing like Memphis Minnie - and plays guitar like Fred McDowell. At various points on the CD she has the help of other blues stalwarts like Danny Kirwin and Tony (T.S.) McPhee. I can't bear the last 20 tracks on it, frankly, because they're polished R'n'B and New Orleans ...stuff, but the first twenty are just outstanding.

I have no idea how she gets the sound she does with 1960's recording technology - bury the microphone in a bucket of sharp silver sand and stand at the other end of the hall yelling at it, I suspect - but she certainly gets it right. After a while she eases off the imitation and gets into her thing, although it remains standard British Blues all the way. No points for correctly guessing that I Can't Quit You Baby is on there, along with Can I Get to Widness and The Catfish Song (you know, the one Jimi Hendrix did, except she had boys swimming after her, as opposed to wimmin).

But I love standard British Blues. It's my thing! So I love this album! Or at least the first CD of it.

I ordered it from an Amazon third party dealer. When it arrived the envelope was marked with a rubber stamp reading "Summerisle Apples" and a smiling Old Sun in woodcut style. Hello, I thought to myself, I am expecting a CD of the soundtrack to Kenneth Anger's Lucifer Rising from a marvelous benefactor, and this must be it! Who else, I say, who else, would have their envelopes marked Summerisle Apples? For it is a jolly clever rubber stamp!

But no, it turned out to be the commercial CD.

If you don't get it, "Summerisle Apples" was the marking on the envelope that lured studmuffin Ed Wood Wood Wood to the pagan isle where he ended up a flaming sacrifice to the sun god inside the Wicker Man, in the 1973 film of the same name. It was a bit of a shock.

**Can't find a current Anthology blah blah British Blues Immediate blah blah, but here's a re-assortment of some of the tracks.

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